City wants to hide priority neighbourhoods, pretend they don’t exist

Posted on July 4, 2011 in Equality Debates

Source: — Authors: – news
Published On Wed Jun 29 2011.   By Royson James, City Columnist

Snake oil salesmen are more cuddly than these suburban city councillors who masquerade as caretakers of Toronto’s neediest of city wards. And a lot more truthful.

There was Giorgio Mammoliti Wednesday running down the Jane-Finch community — declaring that the neighbourhood is a money pit that has gobbled up “hundreds of millions” in government largesse without a scintilla of improvement in the general lives of the populace.

Councillor Frances Nunziata declared that Weston-Mount Dennis can do so much better without the “priority neighbourhood” label council has attached to it, a label that has attracted millions of dollars of added community services.

Now, she says, developers don’t even want to bring a coffee shop into the neighbourhood. Besides, insurance rates shot up when insurers, apparently, found out — from the label, no doubt — that this was a part of town with social challenges.

In other words, change the name and the developers will come. Ha!

Listen to the slick, contemptible councillors and the slithery rhetoric aimed at channeling the few targeted dollars away from the poorest citizens. Whoever knew that Jane-Finch and Rexdale were “gravy,” a waste of money in Toronto the Good?

“The updated strategy should allow for more targeted investments to any and all Toronto neighbourhoods,” Councillor Vincent Crisanti wrote in a letter to the community development and recreation committee. Hesitantly, they backed him, after he swore to promote the opposite of what his request will deliver.

What Crisanti et al don’t say is, once the little cache of funds is spread to 40 or 50 neighbourhoods, instead of 13, the impact is less than negligible.

Gone will be: Lighting for parks, a youth lounge at the community centre, playground equipment, a dance studio, a multisport complex, a cricket pitch, a library expansion, community space in a child-care centre.

There is a reason these areas were deemed priority neighbourhoods. In some, three in four families live below the poverty line. Worse, there was an astonishing lack of resources to serve the residents. In fact, some downtown neighbourhoods were poorer in terms of household incomes, but had the social supports to make life tolerable.

So city council, backed by the United Way, created this novel way to direct some extra money where it was needed. This triggered similar financial support from the federal and provincial governments and from charities like the Atkinson Foundation.

Was it enough? No. But it was something. And, Crisanti, representing one of the poorest wards, is talking about stigma. “People want to feel good about where they live,” he says.

And the way to achieve that is to hide their social challenges? No, silence is isolating. Councillor Adam Vaughan pegged it right:

“What they are interested in is to rescue the middle class from the clutches of this taboo.”

Councillor Maria Augimeri: “This is a war on the poor and the disenfranchised.”

So, please, spare the victims such misplaced affection. It’s killing them. Literally.

The majority of residents in these neighbourhoods face incredible odds. You can find many who believe they’ve been segregated, housed along racial lines. The social housing, we now know, is designed for civic failure. They were lumped, isolated in suburban enclaves with few services. And a cyclical dysfunction dooms the kids to more and more of the same.

With that reality staring them in the face, spare them political platitudes that they’re stigmatized by being branded a “priority neighbourhood.” Does anyone think calling Jane-Finch “Toronto’s New Business Investment Area” is going to deliver industry to the door of residents? No, their full-service hospital is still closing down.

“It’s pretty sad when the most successful businesses in your neighbourhood are a dollar store, United Way and Goodwill,” Mammoliti said, all solemn, pretending to care.

Apparently, not sad enough to prevent him making matters worse. And contemptible enough to denigrate under the guise of aiming to make it better.

Makes you wanna puke.

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